pelvic healthcare provider collaborating with others

Pelvic Healthcare: When to Refer Out and Who to Refer To

The Multi-Disciplinary Pelvic Health Team

In the realm of pelvic healthcare, knowing when to refer out and who to refer to is essential for providing comprehensive and effective care to clients and patients.

As providers, we must consider our scope of practice and ethical responsibilities, ensuring that clients receive the most appropriate and specialized care for their pelvic floor dysfunction.

Here we’ll explore the key considerations when deciding to refer out and shed light on the important roles of three primary providers in a pelvic health treatment team.

When to Refer

Assessing Scope of Practice and Ethical Responsibilities

Determining when to refer clients with pelvic floor dysfunction involves a crucial evaluation of your scope of practice and ethical responsibilities as a healthcare provider.

Recognizing the limitations of your own expertise is the first step in facilitating comprehensive care for patients. When you know where your job ends and another provider’s job begins, you ensure that clients receive the most appropriate treatment for their condition.

Legal Allowance for Diagnosis and Treatment:

Understanding the legal framework and regulations set by your state board and licensure is fundamental!

While your license may allow you to diagnose and treat pelvic floor dysfunction, it’s imperative that we delve deeper into the ethical considerations surrounding that practice.

Ethical responsibilities go beyond legal boundaries and involve evaluating the potential risks and benefits of providing certain treatments within your scope of practice.

For example, as a psychotherapist, you may possess the legal authority to address certain psychological aspects related to pelvic floor dysfunction. However, it’s crucial to assess whether you have received specialized training or if your knowledge is sufficient to handle the complexity of the condition.

Collaborating with other providers who have specific expertise in pelvic health can ensure that clients receive the highest standard of care.

Skills, Knowledge, and Training:

Evaluating your own skills, knowledge, and training is a crucial step in determining whether you can effectively address pelvic floor dysfunction.

While you may have a foundational understanding of the condition, it’s important to recognize the potential limitations of your expertise. Pelvic floor dysfunction involves various physiological, musculoskeletal, and psychological aspects that likely require specialized intervention.

For instance, as a physical therapist, you might have expertise in musculoskeletal rehabilitation, but addressing the emotional and psychological factors related to pelvic floor dysfunction may fall outside your scope of practice.

By acknowledging the boundaries of your skills, you can ensure that clients receive holistic care by referring them to professionals with the appropriate expertise.

Who to Refer To

The Pelvic Health Treatment Team

Building a robust pelvic health treatment team is essential for providing comprehensive care to clients/patients with pelvic floor dysfunction. Collaborating with other specialized providers ensures that individuals receive the most appropriate interventions tailored to their unique needs.

Let’s explore the primary members of the pelvic health treatment team and the valuable roles they play in addressing pelvic floor dysfunction!

The Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist

Pelvic floor physical therapists are skilled professionals who specialize in evaluating and treating musculoskeletal dysfunctions of the pelvic region.

They have in-depth knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics of the pelvic floor muscles. Through manual therapy techniques, therapeutic exercises, and patient education, pelvic floor physical therapists help individuals regain strength, flexibility, and proper functioning of the pelvic floor.

Referring clients to a pelvic floor physical therapist can be beneficial when the primary concerns involve musculoskeletal aspects such as pelvic pain, urinary or fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and post-surgical rehabilitation.

Collaborating with a pelvic floor physical therapist ensures that clients receive targeted interventions to address specific muscular and structural dysfunctions.

The Medical Doctor (Gynecologist, Urogynecologist, or Urologist):

Medical doctors specializing in gynecology, urogynecology, or urology play a critical role in diagnosing and treating various pelvic floor conditions.

They have expertise in managing complex medical issues related to the reproductive and urinary systems. These doctors can perform comprehensive evaluations, order diagnostic tests, and provide medical interventions when necessary.

Referring clients to a medical doctor specializing in pelvic health is essential when there are specific medical concerns or when further diagnostic investigations, such as imaging or surgical interventions, are required. These professionals can offer medical treatments, prescribe medications, and coordinate care with other members of the treatment team.

The Sex Therapist

Sex therapists are specialized providers who focus on addressing sexual concerns and enhancing intimacy within relationships.

They have comprehensive knowledge of human sexuality, including the emotional, psychological, and relational aspects of sexual health. Sex therapists help individuals and couples navigate sexual difficulties, including those related to pelvic floor dysfunction.

Referring clients to a sex therapist can be valuable when there are challenges related to sexual functioning, sexual pain, loss of desire, or when a client’s sexual health significantly impacts their overall well-being and quality of life.

Sex therapists offer a safe and non-judgmental space for clients to explore and address their sexual concerns, providing guidance and therapeutic interventions to promote healthy sexual experiences.

Depending on your patient’s needs, other providers that would be good to refer to are sex coaches, acupuncturists, dieticians and nutritionists, massage therapists, yoga therapists, etc.

Collaborating with a multi-disciplinary pelvic health treatment team ensures that clients/patients receive comprehensive care addressing all aspects of pelvic floor dysfunction.

pelvic healthcare provider holding medical tool

Referring out when needed also ensures that you are leveraging each provider’s expertise, which enhances the overall effectiveness of treatment.

Working together as a cohesive team, you can provide a holistic approach that combines different perspectives and interventions, ultimately improving outcomes for individuals with pelvic floor dysfunction.

Want more information on when and who to refer to for the pelvic health concerns of your patients? Join us for the “Holistic Approaches to Pelvic Pain: A Multi-Disciplinary Workshop for Providers.” to further enhance your knowledge and skills in pelvic healthcare.

This transformative workshop offers a unique opportunity to learn from experts in the field, engage in interactive discussions, and broaden your understanding of holistic pelvic pain management.

Together, let’s elevate our abilities in multi-disciplinary pelvic healthcare and make a positive impact on the lives of our clients!

Alana Ogilvie, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Sex Therapist

Alana R. Ogilvie

Certified Sex Therapist


Alana is a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with individuals and relationships on mismatched sexual desire, sexual dysfunction, and ethical non-monogamy.